Under Milk Wood (1972 film)

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Under Milk Wood (film)
Under Milk Wood 1972 Poster.jpg
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed byAndrew Sinclair
Produced byJohn Comfort et al.
Written byDylan Thomas (radio play and stage play)
Screenplay byAndrew Sinclair
Based onUnder Milk Wood, A Play for Voices
by Dylan Thomas
StarringRichard Burton
Elizabeth Taylor
Peter O'Toole
Siân Phillips
Music byBrian Gascoigne
CinematographyRobert Huke
Edited byWilly Kemplen, Greg Miller
Distributed byJ. Arthur Rank Film Distributors (1972, UK), Altura Films International (1973, US)
Release date
  • 27 January 1972 (1972-01-27) (UK)
  • 21 January 1973 (1973-01-21) (US)
Running time
87 min

Under Milk Wood is a 1972 British drama film directed by Andrew Sinclair and based on the 1954 radio play Under Milk Wood by the Welsh writer Dylan Thomas, commissioned by the BBC and later adapted for the stage. It featured performances from many well-known actors as the residents of the fictional Welsh fishing village of Llareggub including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Siân Phillips, David Jason, Glynis Johns, Victor Spinetti, Ruth Madoc, Angharad Rees, Ann Beach, Vivien Merchant and Peter O'Toole.[1]



Under Milk Wood was Sinclair's first film and he was able to sign up Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to the project with the help of O'Toole, Sinclair's long-term friend. Burton and Taylor were paid £10,000 each. Elizabeth Taylor was only available for three days of filming, which at her request took place in London. At £600, her three dresses took up half of the costume budget.[citation needed]

It was the only film in which Burton, Taylor and O’Toole appeared together. It was shot primarily on location in Wales and has since acquired a reputation among aficionados as a cult movie.[3] "The film, beautifully photographed and spoken, casts the brooding spell of Thomas’ verse in its reconstruction of the seaside village and the daily round of its inhabitants", wrote Andrew Sinclair in the International Herald Tribune.[3]

The filming took place in Lower Town, Fishguard, Wales.[4] The choice of location caused protest from some in Laugharne, the town forty miles away (60 km) where Thomas had written the play; an official there said, "To film Under Milk Wood anywhere but Laugharne would be as absurd as filming James Joyce's The Dubliners in Birmingham."[5]


The film was not a box office success and the main stars wrote it off as a tax loss.[citation needed]


The film received polite but unenthusiastic notices. In The Times, John Russell Taylor wrote:

It is hard to know what to say about a film of Under Milk Wood except that there is really only one way it could turn out, and that is precisely the way this one does. The enterprise is, after all, doomed from the outset by the nature of the original material. The essence of Dylan Thomas's classic radio play was, necessarily, its use of words, of word-painting to evoke with intense vividness all that, in the nature of things, we could not see.[6]

Taylor's conclusion about the film was: "the final effect is to leave one wondering what, precisely, is the point of the exercise".[6] In The Guardian, Derek Malcolm wrote:

What Sinclair has done is to transpose the piece virtually line by line into visuals, so that if Thomas talks about the sea we see it, if he mentions love then we watch an approximation of it on the screen. ... Perhaps the cinema is simply the wrong medium. Even so, there is another way other than mere duplication. What the camera could have done was to sing its own song of praise, almost as a commentator, a second poet. A freer adaptation might have risked raising more eyebrows; but it surely would have shut fewer eyes.[7]


In December 2012 the director of the film, Andrew Sinclair, gave its rights to the people of Wales.[8] In 2014 the film was digitally remastered and re-released to celebrate the centenary of Thomas's birth.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Under Milk Wood on Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Marsh, Gary (2008) "Colstars Say Hi-de-Hi to Ruth", Cynon Valley Leader, 3 July 2008
  3. ^ a b [1] Interview with director Andrew Sinclair on englishpen.org
  4. ^ Wales hosts Hollywood blockbusters
  5. ^ Clwyd, Ann. "Welsh village gets set for 'Under Milk Wood", The Guardian, 10 February 1971, p. 5
  6. ^ a b Taylor, John Russell. "Play it again, Clint", The Times, 28 January 1972, p. 12
  7. ^ Malcolm, Derek. "Forty winking hallelujahs", The Guardian, 27 January 1972, p. 8
  8. ^ "Dylan Thomas Under Milk Wood film rights gift to Wales". BBC Wales. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.

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